Sunday, June 10, 2007

Last Thoughts on Iraq 2: Who is this man and what does he have to do with Iraq?

The dapper fellow on the left is a gentleman of the High Renaissance: Alejandro Farnesio, Duke of Parma and Governor of the Spanish Netherlands from 1578 to 1592.

What the hell does this have to do with the United States and Iraq? Bear with me.

Essentially, he was the LTG Petraeus of his day, fighting the raggedy Dutch rebels for imperial Spain. He was, by all accounts, a brilliant commander, who used every tool in the 16th/17th Century commanders' box: bribery, threats, naked force, diplomacy and in the end managed to pacify much of the Netherlands for Phillip of Spain.

And in the end, it meant absolutely nothing. Worse than nothing. Because the outcome of the Eighty Years' War was the impoverishment and fall of the Spanish Empire of Columbus, Cortez, Balboa and Pizarro. A fall that has lasted almost to this day: parts of rural Spain are as poor, backwards and brutal as Central Asia.

Why does this matter to us?

I've discussed below how our invasion was intended to accomplish the goals that the guys over at the Project for a New American Century set out quite plainly: project American power, secure a "central position" in the Middle East, defenstrate a voluble enemy of Israel and by doing so cow the Palestinian militants.
How most of the objectives were "maximalist", in that to achieve them required 1) every random event to break "our" way, and 2) a degree of victory unseen in world conflicts since 1945.
And that when, instead, our minimalist forces/maximalist objectives plan ran into the reality that Chalabi and the other exiles were a broken reed and the Shiite powers incountry (Sistani, in particular) had other goals that conflicted with ours the original plan was pretty much fucked. At that point we had only two real choices: vastly increase our fighting strength and employ the tried-and-true colonial/Roman plow barbarism to simply kill, break and subjugate the wogs, or keep the order of battle we had on the ground, pick a local proxy (say, SCIRI) and try and coopt as much of their agenda as possible.
AND how instead we were strung up by our leaders' cluelessly-GOP-ideological fanaticism; we had no idea what the hell was going on as we tried frantically to impose "our" solutions.
AND how that's worked about as well as you could imagine, so that American soldiers and diplomats are trapped in Groundhog Day enacting Einstein's definition of insanity: endlessly repeating the same actions hoping for a different result.


AND how the sad reality is that this is going to continue for years. The American people are not informed enough or vested enough to demand change. Dubya and Co. will not change (frankly, they haven't abandoned the maximalist goals I outlined above) and after the Newt/Clinton Impeachment Farce that option is off the table for a generation. Short of catching Dubya screwing Condi over the Oval Office desk AND Dead-Eye Dick passing nuclear secrets to the Israelis while engaging in bondage scenes with senate pages the chance any D.C. pol will risk impeachment is nil; it has the stench of partisan politics now and will until this class of Congresscritters is twenty years in the grave.
So what does this have to do with the fucking Duke of Fucking Parma!!?? I hear you shouting.
More and more I am convinced that Iraq is our Netherlands and our obsession with "controlling" the Middle East we risk repeating the errors and suffering the fate of Hapsburg Spain.
We are committing unrealistic sums and the bulk of our ground forces into what should be an "economy of force" operation, trying to turn what should be a "cabinet war" into a grand conquest. It worked out badly - as badly as possible - for Spain, the superpower of the 16th Century and I truly believe that this promises to work out just as badly for us in the 21st.
I know I am the odd man out here for repeating this, but I fear for our country if we don't get this into our heads soon: other great empires have fallen over such small things as this. As much as I loathe the immediate malediction ongoing in Iraq, my real concern is for the dim, impoverished and authoritarian future I see for my country if we persist in this idiotic imperial venture.

Well. That's it: I'm done with Iraq and war for the next couple of years. I have given you my best hypothesis on what is in our future. I mourn the past, loathe the present, and peer dimly into the future with cringing and fear.

And again, I can't leave you better than with the crystalline brilliance of the words of Brian Turner's "Here, Bullet", this time from his poem "Night in Blue":

What do I know of redemption or sacrifice, what will I have
to say to the dead – that it was worth it,
that any of it made sense?
I have no words to speak of war.
I never dug graves in Talafar.
I never held the mother crying in Ramadi.
I never lifted my friend’s body
when they carried him home.

I have only the shadows under the leaves
to take with me, the quiet of the desert,
the low fog of Balad, orange groves
with ice forming on the rinds of fruit.
I have a woman crying in my ear
late at night when the stars go dim,
moonlight and sand as resonance
of the dust of bones, and nothing more.


mike said...

Don't stop! I have been reading your comments on intel-dump for years. Keep it coming - your prose is dynamite. And why not expand your horizons to newsprint and zines.

The NYT, WP, and Newsweek may not sit up and take notice immediately but I believe there is a big market for your stuff in local papers. Although not from Oregon, I am right across the big river and read the Sunday Oregonian and the local rag from Astoria. Both need your help. There is a thirst out there for no-spin, informed opinion that is well written. You've got it, so flaunt it.


PS - This site is awfully hard to log onto(into??).

walternatives said...

And NOW look at the Dutch! They're wealthy, educated, and produce some of the world's finest engineers and designers as well as beloved Goobers. Parma Schmarma. Seriously, I, too, peer dimly into the future, Chief....

FDChief said...

Obviously I didn't specify the outcome of the 80 Years' War for Holland other than it was more pleasant than for Spain. But having said that, I have always found it intensely ironic that after fighting the Spanish, French, for the French, and the French again, Europe's oldest republic ended up a monarchy.

Proving the proposition that there's no one as willfully perverse as a Hollander. Gotta love 'em.

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atomic mama said...

Speaking of perversions, your loathings and cringings are so refreshing and invigorating! Not that they're not also tragic and terrifying... Thanks, as always, for the well-researched historical refreshers, too.

basilbeast said...

PS - This site is awfully hard to log onto(into??).

Yeah, for me too. I have to keep re-registering if I want to put in a comment.

blogger must hate liberals.